Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion is the creation of Anno and Gainax. I don't own it, make no claims to it, and am making no profit from this fan fiction. No infringement of copyright is intended. In other words, please don't sue.
Disclaimer: I do not own DC Comics or anything associated with it, and I am making no profit from this fan fiction. No infringement of copyright is intended. In other words, please don't sue.
"You know, Ritsuko dear, it's all well and good to pursue success in your scientific career, but you really should worry about pursuing happiness in your personal life as well," Naoko Akagi said to her daughter as the two of them worked in the GEHIRN control room.
"We've been over this before, Mother," Ritsuko said. "I have to figure out a definition for 'happiness' before I can pursue it."
The elder Doctor Akagi resisted the urge to let out a long suffering sigh. "You're approaching the problem like a scientist, Ritsuko, and in matters like this, that's not the best way to go about it."
"No other method of approaching a problem ever worked for me," Ritsuko said. "Anyway, I have to go. I'm supposed to go out with Misato tonight." She added quickly, clearly wanting to end the discussion.
Under other circumstances, Naoko might have pursued the conversation further anyway. However, she was pleased to hear that her daughter was going to be spending time with her friend; if nothing else, Katsuragi knew how to show someone a good time.
Besides, she was supposed to meet with Gendo soon, Naoko mused, her lips curling up into a small smile.
"All right," the elder scientist said, "I'll see you tomorrow, Ritsuko."
"Bye, Mother," Ritsuko replied as she left the control room.
I hope she has fun tonight, at least, Naoko thought as she watched her daughter leave.
Really, the girl was far too uptight; she desperately needed to let her hair down and just go wild and crazy every now and then.
Like I do with Gendo, the dark haired scientist thought with a naughty smirk.
A small noise behind her made Naoko realize that she wasn't alone. Pulling herself from her thoughts, the scientist spun around and was surprised to see that Rei was in the control room with her.
"Rei, what are you doing here?" Naoko asked, trying to keep the edge that always crept into her voice around the strange child from becoming audible.
"I lost my way," the young girl replied calmly.
"Do you need me to help you?" Naoko asked.
"No, that's all right," Rei answered, still looking eerily composed for a child.
Naoko frowned. The GEHIRN base was utterly enormous, and it was extremely easy to get turned around inside it. Naoko had subordinates who got lost on an almost daily basis. Any young child lost in such a place should have quickly become hysterical, but the blue-haired girl didn't seem fazed in the least.
"Are you sure?" Naoko asked.
"I can find my way by myself, old hag," Rei said.
"What?" Naoko snapped, eyes widening.
"I said 'I can find my way by myself, old hag,'" Rei repeated.
Naoko scowled, and she consciously stopped trying to hold back her distaste for Rei. "It's not nice to call people names like that," she said through gritted teeth.
"But that's what you are, aren't you, old hag?" Rei asked.
"Rei, stop calling me that right now or I'll tell Director Ikari," Naoko threatened, knowing that his opinion was about the only thing the weird kid ever seemed to care about.
"He's the one who calls you that," Rei said.
"What?" Naoko said softly, her eyes wide.
"He says 'the old hag is annoying,'" Rei said, her lips curling upwards into a small, sardonic smile that looked all wrong on the child's young face. "He says 'the old hag is no longer useful.' He says 'the old hag is no longer necessary.'"
It was something about the combination of that awful little smile and the insults that did it. Suddenly, the mystery of Rei Ayanami—of who she had always reminded the scientist of—unraveled inside Naoko's mind.
Yui. The girl was the spitting image of Yui Ikari, only younger and color shifted.
On the heels of that revelation came another: she had been used. Gendo had never cared for her. She had always believed that she was nothing more to him than a pale substitute for his late wife, and she had been content with that. Now, however, she realized she had never even been that to him. That was what Rei was. So far as Gendo Ikari was concerned, Naoko Akagi was a tool to be used.
And until now, she, a Nobel laureate and one of the most brilliant minds alive today… she had had no idea.
As all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly fell into place Naoko Akagi briefly…
"You little bitch!" Naoko shrieked and lunged forward, wrapping her hands around the child's thin neck and lifting her right off the ground.
Rei's crimson eyes widened with obvious fear, and her little legs kicked frantically through the air, but even that wasn't enough to satisfy the berserk scientist. Naoko tightened her hold on the girl's neck.
A few pathetic gurgling sounds issued forth from Rei, but even those failed to reach Naoko in her moment of perfect, crystalline rage.
The wet, muffled snap of Rei's young neck breaking, however, was another story. The sound shattered her fury, and in one horrible instant, the scientist's keen intelligence came rushing back to the fore.
"Oh my God," she breathed, lowering the body of the dead girl. "Oh my God, what have I done?"
Unfortunately, much as she would have liked to pretend otherwise, she knew exactly what she had done. She had just murdered a child, and in full view of the control room's security cameras, no less. Base security was doubtlessly on its way to take her into custody, and introduce her to the legal system and then a very small jail cell.
Naoko decided that she was not going to the hell that was prison.
The control room had an unusual, three tiered structure in it, which made up the part of the room that wasn't dominated by the huge, holographic display. Naoko was currently situated on the top tier.
She made the journey to the bottom in less than two seconds, her body bouncing off MAGI Melchior with a horrible, meaty thwack before it finally collapsed to the floor. Blood rapidly began to pool beneath her limp body. The sound of her final impact echoed for a brief moment, and then the control room was deathly silent.
Or at least it was until a door near Naoko slid open with a soft swishing sound, and a bearded man walked in, pushing his glasses up higher on the bridge of his nose. Silently and dispassionately, he bent down over the bloody scientist and pressed down on the vein in her neck with one gloved finger.
There was a pulse. It was faint, and fading, but it was there.
Standing up straight, Gendo reached into his pocket, withdrew a cell phone, then quickly dialed. "It's me," he said. "I need you to come get her and bring her to Unit Zero. Now."
Naoko Akagi wouldn't be going to prison. Gendo had an entirely different hell in mind for her.
"Looks like you can be useful one more time," he commented to the dying woman before he turned and left.
Five years later…
"Rei! Get out of there!" Misato shouted.
In some corner of her mind, the First Child realized that she should probably comply. The Sixteenth Angel had invaded her Evangelion's body, and in doing so, had invaded hers. She could see tendrils of it crawling across her flesh beneath her plug suit, and she could feel it slowly invading the sanctity of her mind. She had been speaking to it mere moments ago, which was never a good sign.
But fleeing was not an option, so for the first time in her life, Rei Ayanami refused a direct order.
"I cannot," she said as she rose from her seat, turning around to arm Unit Zero's self-destruct mechanism. "If I eject, the AT field will cease to be, and the Angel will resume its attack."
"Rei…" Misato said.
"This is my mind and soul," Rei said softly. "If I cannot be one with Ikari…"
"Rei!" the Commander shouted.
She pulled the lever. There was one brief moment of perfect silence, when it seemed as if the entire world was holding its breath.
And then Unit Zero exploded, briefly turning into a second sun and taking a massive chunk of Tokyo-3, the First Child's second incarnation, and the Sixteenth Angel with it.
Shinji Ikari, watching the whole scene play out from inside Unit One, could only stare in wordless horror.
The soul of Rei Ayanami was almost immediately drawn back toward the Chamber of Gauf, where it would wait until Gendo Ikari was prepared to infuse one of her clone bodies with it and bring the third version of her into being.
The soul of Naoko Akagi was less restrained, and it went floating slowly upwards, away from the carnage that Unit Zero's self destruction had created. That which remained of the scientist let out a soft sigh and stretched out, relieved to finally be free of the horrible prison of metal and inhuman flesh that she had known for years now. She felt almost as though she was floating on a cloud; it was a very pleasant sensation after her years of confinement.
She might have allowed herself to drift away to wherever she was destined, but the soul of the late scientist chose the moment before eternity to look down at the world again.
Gazing down at the place she had once called home, she experienced a moment of revelation no less powerful than the one she'd had when she'd finally realized what Rei was.
Her daughter was down there, and Ritsuko had worked herself into the very same, wretched position that Naoko herself had occupied only half a decade prior. Her Ritsuko was a tool of that bastard, and he would throw her aside like so much rubbish when she had outlived her usefulness. And then he would proceed on his way, never losing so much as a wink of sleep over any of it.
Naoko had seen it all unfolding, watching silently over the years from inside Unit Zero. Ritsuko's relationship with Gendo had mirrored her own to a disturbing extent. Naoko had tried—she'd tried so hard—to stop him. In the rare moments she managed to seize control of the Evangelion, her entire being had burned with fury and the desire to claim revenge against him.
But she had not succeeded, and now she was even more powerless to affect anything than she'd been while trapped inside EVA!
"No!" she yelled, trying to return to the Earth. "No! This can't happen! He has to be punished! He has to face justice!"
Her cries of rage went unheard into the wind, soundless to mortal ears, and doing nothing. Her attempts at making it back to the ground were equally useless; she continued to float upwards like a helium balloon, soon entering the cloud layer. Confronted again by her impotence, she felt a swell of rage so great that she thought it might rip her apart.
"No! Damn it, no!" she screamed. "I want vengeance!"
The last word seemed to echo somehow in the boundless sky, and her surroundings abruptly shifted. The white clouds around her grew and changed into dark thunderheads, lightning cracking within them along with the promise of an immense deluge. The soul of Naoko Akai was thrown into darkness, and she immediately felt her anger fade somewhat, fear partially eclipsing her rage.
Then something flew into her cocoon of black clouds. It was fast, and she didn't immediately get a good look at it, but she did see that a tattered cloak trailed after it, whipping about wildly in the wind. It was like a creature from a half remembered nightmare.
Then it made a wide turn and started coming directly toward her. The dead scientist was finally able to get a good look at it, and it became a creature from a fully remembered nightmare.
The thing was a human skeleton clad in a hooded cloak of dark green. As the horrible thing approached her, a booming voice sounded from above, easily making itself heard over the whipping wind that surrounded it and the scientist.
"You are not worthy of Heaven," it spoke with an unmistakable tone of command, "but not bound for Hell, either. Your spirit must walk the Earth. You will be the focus for the anger of the murdered dead who seek retribution. Confront evil. Confront—and comprehend. Until you understand why people choose the paths they take, you will wander the face of the Earth, seeking to rid the world of evil—as task you must ultimately fail."
Naoko heard all of this, but she listened only to the part about her confronting evil. She knew she couldn't confront anything without returning to the world of the living, so that meant this skeletal thing, whatever it was, was going to help her get back.
The cloaked nightmare surged toward her. Naoko spread her arms and welcomed it as it plunged into her torso, proving no more solid than smoke.
And then Naoko let out a scream of fright, the world becoming a blur to her as she went rocketing back toward the Earth.
The next thing Naoko Akagi knew, she was sitting atop a pile of black garbage bags in a dark alleyway somewhere. She blinked, looking at the graffiti smeared brick walls around her with amazement. Then she looked down at herself, seeing that she was wearing her favorite tan blouse, black skirt, and white lab coat. She even had her black heels.
She was back. For the first time in years, she was back in the land of the living and no longer trapped within Evangelion, like she had never flung herself off the top tier of the control room. It was completely impossible, but it was true.
And yet something was missing. Naoko knew that this was a place where she no longer belonged. On a hunch, she reached up and pressed a finger to the vein in her neck. There wasn't the slightest trace of a pulse.
She placed the back of her hand just beneath her nose. She was breathing, she discovered, but the breath that left her nostrils was cold.
"Okay," she said, running a hand through her short dark hair, "it looks like I'm still dead."
Well, dead or alive, she wouldn't accomplish anything by sitting around and doing nothing. She got herself off the pile of garbage bags and made it to her feet, then she left the alleyway and walked out into the night.
I'm strolling down a city street, like a totally normal person, she marveled silently as her heels clicked against the sidewalk.
Then Naoko shook her head. She could gawk in wonder at her renewed ability to pass herself off as more or less normal later. For now, she had a daughter to save, and not a lot of resources at her disposal to save her with.
Okay, what do I have to work with? Naoko thought.
Not a lot, she soon realized. She had been dead to the world for five years now; her bank accounts and lines of credit had doubtlessly been closed long ago. Her access codes to the GEHIRN base (NERV base now, she reminded herself) were no longer valid. Her MAGI passwords had certainly been changed. She had no possessions beside the clothes on her back. If she went to the media with her story, they would think she was insane.
She could go to NERV. Doubtlessly her appearance would give Gendo one hell of scare, but that was all such an action would achieve. The bastard would have her quietly thrown into a holding cell where she would rot, and that would be the end of that.
Ritsuko. She could go to Ritsuko. Her daughter could help her, and more importantly, Naoko could warn her, make her see what she'd gotten into. Working together, they might just stand a chance at defeating Ikari.
Unfortunately, just as Naoko felt hope flare within her motionless heart, she realized the flaw in her plan. She had no idea where Ritsuko lived; Naoko had managed to observe quite a bit while trapped inside Unit Zero, but her daughter's current home address was something she had never discovered. The only place she knew she could meet Ritsuko was by the NERV base, and security would most likely pick her up before she caught so much as a glance of her daughter.
Naoko cursed in frustration and despair. If she was still powerless to do anything, she might as well have just gone quietly to the afterlife.
"I'm so sorry, Ritsuko," Naoko whispered to the cool night. "If only I had put raising you before my work, instead of the other way around, you might have avoided making the same mistakes I did."
The dead scientist might have spent the whole night just stalking the streets in a state of quiet frustration if not for the murder.
As she continued to wander aimlessly around the bad part of the city, the smell of blood hit Naoko like a slap to the face. One moment it hadn't been there at all, and the next it filled her nostrils, stifling all her other senses and all her thoughts. The smell sickened her to her very core and demanded her attention like nothing else could. The only thing she could concentrate on was the overpowering odor and the sudden, unshakable knowledge that someone was being killed.
I have to find them! She thought as an all-consuming impulse to locate the crime surged through her, momentarily burning away everything else, even her concern for her daughter.
Naoko took off at a run, having no difficulty following the smell of the blood; she felt like she could practically see the scent trail in the air. She felt no discomfort from sprinting in heels. Apparently, being dead did come with a few fringe benefits.
She came to an abrupt stop outside another alleyway and looked in to see a huge man standing over the body of a dead prostitute. The lady of the night had been slain only mere moments ago. Naoko knew this because somehow, she could actually see a white, ethereal form rising up from the body and quickly flying upward toward the heavens. The dead scientist knew instinctually that it was the woman's soul leaving the mortal realm.
"Too late," Naoko breathed.
The murderer turned, and his eyes lit up upon seeing the dark haired woman looking at the scene of his crime. "Well now, looks like I got me some dessert," he said. "Must be my lucky night."
The killer was an enormous man; six and a half feet tall if he was an inch, and massive besides. His bulging belly made it apparent that he'd let himself go in recent years, but the muscles that strained the sleeves of his shirt showed that he hadn't always been so lax. He could doubtlessly overpower the average woman (and the average man, for that matter) with little difficulty.
Yet Naoko wasn't afraid. No, she wasn't afraid at all, and not because she was already dead.
She was too angry to be afraid.
"You murdered her!" Naoko shouted. "You son of a bitch! Is this all life means to you!?"
The huge man was surprised at the utter lack of fear in the woman he planned to make his second victim of the night. Surprised…and secretly a little afraid. Deciding that she needed to shut the hell up right then and there, he reached out for her neck, intending to choke her until she passed out.
But that never happened. His beefy fingers went right through Naoko as if she was made of smoke, though she felt more like an arctic wind; she was so cold that the man half expected to find his had encased in a block of ice when he pulled it back.
"The hell?!" the murderer gasped.
The dead woman ignored him and spoke again, though she had no idea where the next words came from. "The Spectre must deliver vengeance!"
As the last word echoed off the cold brick walls that formed the alleyway, Naoko Akagi changed. Her white lab coat became a long, hooded cloak of the deepest green. Her sensible yet attractive skirt and blouse transformed into a leotard of the same shade. Her high heels morphed into green boots, and gloves appeared on her hands.
Yet none of these changes were as striking as what happened to her skin; it became an impossible chalk white, far paler than any living human's skin could have been, even if he'd spent his whole life hiding from the light of the sun.
Accompanying this transformation was a rush of memories that did not belong to Naoko Akagi and yet were still hers all the same. She remembered annihilating the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, razing the sin drenched civilizations to the ground. She remembered rending the walls of Jericho so that the Israelites could pour into the city. She could remember the smell of silt from the Nile River as she slew the first born of Egypt for the pharaoh's crimes. She remembered this and a thousand other things, none of them very pleasant.
"Oh god!" the huge man exclaimed, backing up further into the alleyway. "What are you?"
Brought back to the present by his voice, the Spectre turned her angry gaze upon the murderer. She didn't know quite where the next words to leave her mouth came from.
"I am the spirit of divine vengeance," she hissed, her voice now sounding not at all like that of Naoko Akagi. It sounded ancient, powerful, and not quite human. But above all, it sounded furious and deadly. "The woman you have killed seeks retribution, murderer!"
"No! No!" the man yelled.
He grabbed hold of a steel pipe that had been abandoned in the alleyway and swung it at her head like a baseball bat. It went right through her as harmlessly as his hand had when he'd attempted to choke her.
"You violated this woman's body, took what you wanted from her, and then you killed her and left her to die in a gutter," the Spectre said, utterly ignoring the murderer's ineffectual resistance. "It is time for you to see what that's like."
Her hand shot forward and plunged right into the man's chest. It did no damage, penetrating the man like it was no more than a shadow, but the murderer felt the most terrible sense of coldness imaginable. He was sure that he would freeze from the inside out.
Then the Spectre pulled her hand back, and this time it acted as if it was a solid appendage.
The man screamed as blood sprayed from the gaping wound in his chest, and his face paled as he saw what the Spectre had clenched in her fist.
It was his heart. The Spectre held his still beating heart in her hand. Steam rose off the organ in the cool night air as it dripped blood onto the ground.
"Judgment has been passed," the Spectre proclaimed, a terrible joy shooting through her, making the dead woman feel utterly and completely alive for the first time in years.
With a little strangled gasp, the murderer collapsed to the ground, dead. The Spectre's savage joy was abruptly extinguished, and she looked down at the man she'd just killed as the overwhelming impulses that had gripped her upon smelling the blood abandoned her.
The Spectre's clothing and skin abruptly reverted to what they'd been moments ago, and she became Naoko Akagi again. The scientist looked exactly as she had before her transformation, except for the bloody heart, which was still clutched in her hand.
"Oh god," Naoko moaned, dropping the organ to the ground. "Oh god!"
She could feel the muscles in her abdomen tighten; she was trying to vomit, but her stomach was empty.
The second time she had killed in her existence had proved itself to be as big of an illuminating experience as the first. When she'd killed Rei, she'd known that her life as she knew it was over. With the death of this murderer, she now had gained an idea of what she was now capable of and what she had become.
It was too much. Naoko went fleeing from the scene, leaving the alleyway occupied by only a dead woman and her equally dead killer.
Naoko had no idea how long she spent trying to escape, both from what she had just done and from what she now was. She didn't tire out, allowing her to sprint through the dark streets for as long as she liked.
However, running did no good, and eventually she realized that and slowed down to a walk. By this time, the color of the night sky was starting to grow lighter with the first timid light of approaching dawn, but it wasn't morning yet. Naoko was oddly relieved by this; somehow she felt like what was going on would be harder to confront in the light of day.
Naoko eventually managed to find a public restroom. It was utterly filthy, but fortunately she didn't have to go (being dead, she would never have to go again, but she didn't realize that yet). She just wanted to wash off the blood that covered her right hand. It was a difficult task; there was no soap in the restroom, and the blood had mostly dried. However, she was determined, and she eventually got all of it off, even from beneath her fingernails.
Not that it made her feel truly clean.
Shutting off the water, she raised her eyes from the sink to the restroom's grimy mirror, looking at herself and remembering that pale, green cloaked entity she had become only hours before. She had immense power at her disposal now, she realized, but she couldn't do what she pleased with it. She had a job to do with it, and she obviously had no choice but to do it.
"Oh god," Naoko groaned, "is this what I am now? Heaven's attack dog?"
Yes, she realized after a moment, discovering that she somehow had knowledge in her head which she'd never learned. Heaven's attack dog was almost exactly what she was now. She was the spirit of vengeance. She had a duty to perform in exchange for her return to the world.
But that didn't mean she couldn't do what she'd returned to do in the first place, she realized. In fact, it made what she come back to do much easier. After all, if she was the Spectre, then she got to determine who was to taste divine vengeance first.
A vicious smile spread over her face. Perhaps, this wasn't as bad as she'd first thought.
With a thought from Naoko, the veneer of humanity vanished as she again assumed the guise of the Spectre. The transformation suddenly felt as natural to her as breathing.
"I do believe that it's time I looked up one of my old lovers," she said.
And then the Spectre turned into a green mist which quickly vanished, leaving the dirty restroom vacant once more.
Gendo Ikari was not having a good day. Dr. Akagi was working on bringing Rei III online, but the reawakening of the First Child would only be the start of his new problems. He might be able to make the rank and file of NERV believe that Rei had survived the explosion of Unit Zero somehow, or at the very least convince them it would be wise to act like they believed it, but the old men would doubtlessly give him trouble.
Of course, the destruction of Unit Zero was also a hindrance to him. He'd have to adjust his plans, something he was loathe to do at this late stage in the scenario.
If only his son hadn't stood there like the useless fool he was after Rei decided to sacrifice herself. If only the Second Child had been able to keep it together for just a bit longer.
No use dwelling on such thoughts, he scolded himself. Focus on what is, not what should be.
With this thought in mind, he resolved to tackle the problems before him. He strode into his office, shutting the door behind him, then sat down at his deck and booted up his computer.
He had just entered in his password when the voice spoke up.
"Hello, Gendo dear."
His head snapped up, and his eyes widened behind the orange lenses of his glasses. A dead woman stood in the center of his office, looking just like she had before her attempt at suicide had partially crushed her skull.
"Naoko?" he breathed.
"That's right," she said, leisurely strolling over to him. "It's been a long time, Gendo."
The Commander of NERV seemed to get over his shock, and his face set itself back into its usual cold and emotionless expression.
"The elder Dr. Akagi is dead," he stated flatly while he subtly reached toward one of his desk's drawers. "Who are you? Who sent you?"
"Oh, you think I'm an imposter," Naoko said as she continued to slowly advance toward Gendo. "How cute."
"I know you're an imposter," Gendo replied, "and I'm certain your autopsy will prove most enlightening."
With that, he quickly opened his desk drawer and pulled out the pistol hidden there. Taking aim at Naoko, he squeezed the trigger three times.
The bullets flew right through her without even slowing down, striking the back wall of his office.
"Waste of ammunition, Gendo," Naoko chided. "You can't kill the dead."
"You are her," Gendo whispered.
"Indeed I am, Gendo dear," Naoko said, finally reaching his desk.
She sat down atop it, as she had countless times back when she was alive and Ikari was deluding her into thinking he cared about her. She crossed her long legs, allowing her black skirt to ride up. Middle age had taken its toll on her body, but her legs had remained smooth and sleek right up to the day she'd been absorbed into Unit Zero.
Gendo glanced down at them. He felt no attraction to her; in the current situation, sex was about the last thing on his mind, but he was taken aback by the familiar motion. She smirked.
"Still hot for me, Gendo?" she asked. "I'm flattered. And here I thought you'd moved on."
Despite himself, the man winced. He could tell from the tone of her voice that Naoko knew he'd been sleeping with her daughter.
"I'm not going to play games with you. What do you want?" he demanded.
"That's an interesting question," she replied. "You see, part of me wants nothing more than to protect my daughter from walking all the way down the same path I did and meeting an equally unpleasant end. But there's another part of me—a part of me you're not familiar with. And all that part wants is vengeance."
He didn't reply. Instead he just glared coldly at her. If he could not avert whatever she planned to do to him, he would endure it stoically. This was a pledge he made to himself.
He had no idea how quickly it would be broken.
"Fortunately, I can please both parts of myself at once," Naoko said.
Then, before Gendo's eyes, she transformed into the Spectre, going from the woman he'd known well to the pale skinned manifestation of divine vengeance.
The NERV Commander's ever present composure finally broke, and he released a yelp of fright at the apparition that Naoko had so abruptly changed into. His desk chair went clattering to the floor as he tried to get out of it too quickly. Immediately getting to his feet, he sprinted across his huge office, for the first time cursing the sheer size of the room.
The Spectre didn't even bother to get off his desk as he made his escape, and Gendo soon discovered why: the door to his office stubbornly refused to budge so much as an inch, even though it wasn't locked.
"You're not getting away that easily," the Spectre said, suddenly right behind him.
Gendo whirled about and his face paled as he saw the fearsome apparition glaring at him.
"I know you've escaped justice dozens of times in the past, just before the noose drew tight around your neck, but there is no escape from the Spectre!" she yelled, grabbing hold of his uniform jacket and then easily hurling him back to the center of the great room.
"Ugh," he groaned as he landed painfully in a heap right in the middle of the diagram of the Tree of Life that was emblazoned upon his office floor.
He began to get up, intending to try to escape again, no matter how futile the attempt might be. His former lover and puppet had put the fear of god into him; he no longer cared about dignity. All that mattered was getting away.
"Ikari," the Spectre said just as he was getting to his feet, "have you ever heard the old saying about getting burnt by an old flame?"
Fire suddenly leapt up all over the office in a titanic blaze that instantly turned the huge room into a furnace. There was no possible way he could get out without being roasted alive.
"No!" Gendo yelled, falling to his knees. "No!"
"Gendo Ikari!" the Spectre shouted over the sound of the crackling flames and the Commander's screams. "You have schemed with the likes of SEELE to enact a scenario that has killed over three billion people and promises to kill billions more before it is completed, all in the name of your colossal selfishness! You have used countless people as puppets in your scheme! Including children, your own flesh and blood son, and my daughter! The Spectre must deliver vengeance!"
"No!" Gendo yelled, covering his head with his arms in a futile attempt to protect himself from the flames. "No!"
Then, all of a sudden, the orange and yellow firelight that drenched the office winked out. The sweat that covered Gendo's face suddenly felt cold on his skin as the stifling heat that had flooded the room vanished as though it had never been there.
Slowly, he lowered his arms. His office was no longer aflame. Indeed, there wasn't the faintest trace of fire damage to be found anywhere.
Yet the elder Akagi remained, still in her green garb and ghostly pale skin. She towered over him, her crossed arms held just beneath her breasts. He looked up at her hopefully.
"You think this is mercy, Ikari?" she asked, as though reading his mind. "The Spectre does not do mercy."
"Call it a stay of execution, if you wish," the Spectre said. "You will burn, Ikari, but not today."
The Spectre grinned. It was a frightening sight. "Because I've decided that I'm going to kill you last," she said softly. "Enjoy the next few days, Ikari. They're your final ones."
And with that she transformed into green smoke and completely disappeared from the office, leaving Gendo alone.
Jacques Morel was not pleased with the current state of affairs in Japan. That Ikari should have released Unit One from cryo-freeze without the consent of the council was intolerable, and that he had still lost Unit Zero only made matters all the worse.
"He grows too brazen as the end of the scenario draws near," Morel muttered angrily to himself as he stalked through his opulent French mansion. "He must be reminded who his masters truly are."
Well, he would learn soon enough, Morel told himself. The Mass Produced Evangelion Series was nearing completion. Once they were done, the pendulum would swing back to where it belonged, and they would again be the ones with all the power.
Still, that didn't mean he had to like waiting, or tolerate it with a mild temperament, for that matter. The most powerful man in France stabbed a button on one of the house's intercoms.
"Anna, where is my dinner?!" he yelled into it, deciding to vent his anger at his servants.
However, it didn't quite work out the way he'd planned. Instead of the voice of his ever tolerant maid, a burst of static was all that replied. He frowned and pressed the button several more times, hoping that the intercom wasn't broken.
Then a voice did come from the little device, but it wasn't the voice of Anna.
"SEELE Four, the dead demand vengeance!"
The words chilled Morel's little black heart, as did being addressed as "SEELE Four" outside of the secret cabal's virtual meeting chambers. He suddenly decided that it would be wise for him to be someplace else. He turned to leave the room.
Only to discover that a woman with unnaturally pale skin in a green cloak stood before the door, blocking his way. Surprised and not a little afraid, he staggered back a step.
"Who are you?" he gasped.
"I am the Spectre," the woman answered in a voice that chilled his soul. "And you, Jacques Morel, are a murderer of nearly unprecedented magnitude."
"I've never killed anyone!" he exclaimed.
"With your own hand, no," the Spectre conceded, "but your word has sent countless people to their doom. It was you and the rest of your repugnant council who orchestrated Second Impact. Now you and the rest of your council shall pay the price!"
"Yes!" the Spectre roared. "Over three billion people died because of SEELE! For being a part of that, you should die a thousand times!"
"No, please no!" the old man pleaded.
The Spectre shook her head, and the gesture had an air of terrible finality to it. "I have not the time to make you suffer as you deserve," she said. "That will have to wait until you leave this mortal realm. So rather than dying a thousand times, I shall make you die a death of a thousand cuts."
Gleaming blades without number suddenly appeared from nowhere. Hanging suspended in the midair, the point of each and every one was directed straight at Morel.
Light glinting off the shiny blades was reflected in the SEELE member's eyes. The Spectre could see it, along with the stark terror and panic that chose that moment to grip him totally.
"Nooooooo!" Morel howled, making a break for the window, even though he was on the third story of his lavish home.
He wasn't nearly fast enough. The blades descended upon him like a school of staving piranhas. Half a second after the first cut in his skin was made, the Spectre could not see him because of the cloud of red mist which surrounded the man.
After a few moments which must have seemed like an eternity to him, the dead body of Jacques Morel collapsed to the floor.
The Spectre nodded in satisfaction and then vanished from the room.
St. Petersburg in Russia was her next stop. The Spectre materialized within a manor home that was just as opulent as the one she had left mere moments ago but was designed very differently.
A large man sat at formidable oak desk, his back to her. A bottle of clear liquid sat on the desk, and he was drinking a glass of the beverage as she entered. One whiff of the air in the room, and she could knew without doubt that the drink was vodka. It was a very good vodka, in fact. Had she been alive, she might have wanted a glass.
The man lowered his glass with a satisfied sigh.
"I hope you enjoyed that, SEELE Five," she spoke. "It's the last drink you'll ever have."
Taken entirely by surprise, the man jumped and then tried to put his shot glass down. He missed the desk entirely and the glass tumbled to the floor where it shattered with a loud crash.
"How did you get in here?" the man demanded as he whirled around. "What are you?"
"I am the Spectre. I have come to claim vengeance for the countless lives you have brought to a premature end, Vladimir Kosygin," she said.
"What are you talking about?" he asked.
"Do not play dumb with me," the Spectre warned him, feeling her ever present anger rise. "I know only too well about the blood that stains your hands. It is because of you and your ilk that the seas near the South Pole run red. It is because of you and your hidden council that billions died when the seas rose, and tsunamis washed over so much of creation after Second Impact."
"And you never suffered for it, did you?" the Spectre demanded. "No, you knew it was coming. You made sure that the natural disasters and the chaos afterwards never so much as touched you. Those who died and those who survived to endure the hell this world became paid the price for your crimes!"
Kosygin didn't reply. He was too cowed to do or say anything in his own defense.
"Though it shall be only the smallest fraction of what you inflicted upon others, you shall taste great suffering before you die, Vladimir Kosygin," she proclaimed. "So says the Spectre!"
She abruptly moved toward him, and the motion knocked Kosygin from his shocked stupor. The man tried to get up from his chair and flee, but he was far too slow. The Spectre reached out and grabbed hold of his shirt.
And then suddenly, they weren't in Russia any longer. Kosygin let out a yelp as a frigid wind, colder than even Siberia, blew over his skin. A cloud of steam burst forth from his mouth along with his cry of fight.
"Where are we?" he exclaimed.
"I thought you would recognize your handiwork, Kosygin," the Spectre sneered.
He looked about frantically, finally taking in more about his surroundings than the subzero temperature. They were on a tiny, snow covered island in the middle of the ocean.
A red ocean.
"The Antarctic Sea," he breathed.
"Correct," the Spectre said. "Under normal circumstances, I personally select the method of punishment, but here, I leave it in your hands. Freeze or drown, the choice is yours."
"What?" Kosygin said. Then he realized what she intended. "No! Wait!"
But it was too late. The Spectre was gone.
By the time the evening had come around, Gendo Ikari had convinced himself that what he'd experienced that morning had all been a hallucination. He'd checked the security feeds from the cameras in his office, and they had shown nothing except him putting on a very undignified display. Of the ghost of Naoko Akagi, there had been no sign. No flames had shown up on the video, either.
Really, he mused as he headed to his meeting with SEELE, such a hallucination really shouldn't be all that surprising. Given the sheer amount of stress he was subjected to on a daily basis, and with his anticipation reaching a fever pitch as the climax of his carefully planned scenario drew near, the only shock was that he hadn't experienced some kind of episode earlier.
He would have to be careful in the future, and he should probably try and take it easy as much as possible. However, ultimately, he had little to worry about.
So, feeling far better than he had hours earlier, Gendo stepped into the room where he held his holographic meetings with SEELE. They would have hard questions for him; Dr. Akagi had managed to bring Rei III online earlier that day, so they would know something was up.
No matter. If the old men demanded a sacrifice, he would throw them the Project-E Chairperson. After dealing with the phantasm his mind had conjured that morning, the idea amused him.
The large monoliths that SEELE used as their avatars appeared around him as Gendo sat at the desk in the room, just as they always did, but he immediately realized something was wrong. Two of the monoliths were missing.
"Ikari," SEELE 01 spoke, "we have a problem."
Gendo took a deep, slow breath. "What has happened to Four and Five?" he asked, silently hoping that they had abandoned the scenario and defected from the council, despite the immense headache that would cause him.
"Dead," SEELE 01 answered flatly. "Four's remains were found in his home, sliced—almost literally—to shreds. Five has just disappeared, but we aren't holding out a lot of hope of finding him alive."
"Ikari, did you have anything to do with this?" SEELE 02 demanded. "Do you know anything about this?"
It was an unusually direct inquiry for them, but it under the circumstances, it wasn't that surprising that the veneer of civility they usually maintained was fading.
"No," Gendo answered flatly, but there was a little tremble in his voice.
"There can only be one conclusion," SEELE 01 said. "Someone is assassinating the members of this council."
"Any one of us could be next," SEELE 03 piped up.
"You don't know how right you are," spoke a chilling voice that came from neither Ikari nor any of the monoliths.
"Who's there?" SEELE 01 demanded.
"I am," the Spectre said as she materialized inside the chambers.
A series of muffled gasps went through the council as her appearance put them into a very unique, very unpleasant position. They were all seeing her, of course, but because the holographic technology they were using was so good, none of them could tell whether or not the mysterious woman with the impossibly pale skin was actually in the room with them or with one of the other members. It was like a bizarre game of Russian roulette.
"Who are you?" SEELE 01 asked.
"The spirit of vengeance," the Spectre replied. "I have judged you all and found you all guilty. Those who have died at your hands will finally have their revenge!"
With that proclamation, she flew toward the monolith of SEELE 06. The Spectre vanished from the virtual chambers as she passed the hologram.
Then there was a blood curdling scream, and then SEELE 06's monolith winked out.
The remaining members of the cabal were silent for a very long moment after that. The issue of the First Child never came up.
As the following days passed, the remaining members of the SEELE council began to drop like flies, one or two of them dying each day.
Gendo felt certain that the Spectre could have ended them all within the space of an hour if she had so desired; she merely wanted the anticipation of his painful demise to torture him.
The members of SEELE, however, were less afraid of her. Or at least, they were less afraid of her at first. The remaining members of the shadowy organization initially responded to the promise of their doom by beefing up their security. This proved utterly ineffective.
After a half dozen more of their number had died, they ran. This worked no better, but they had no other recourse after it.
Arthur Boone, known as SEELE 08 and the United States' representative in the Human Instrumentality Committee, piloted his little private plane across the waters of the Atlantic. He knew where his companions had gone wrong in their escape attempts. They had trusted others, and someone had betrayed them. It was the only possible explanation.
Well, not him. Nobody knew where he was going. He had lied about his plans to his most trusted confidants and bodyguards, and now he was on his way to an uncharted island in the Bermuda Triangle. He had enough supplies to last him for years and years stashed away there. There was no way that the assassin could ever hope to track him down.
A small alarm cut his self-congratulations short. With a frown, Boone looked down at the flight controls and then up through the plane's windshield. His eyes widened as what he saw.
The Spectre stood before him, grown to the size of giant. Though she was standing in the middle of the ocean, the water only came up to her ankles.
Boone's hands seemed to move of their own accord even as his mind just went blank at what he was seeing, and the plane banked hard to the right as he attempted to avoid the massive woman.
It was to no avail; the Spectre reached out and snatched the aircraft from the sky like it was a toy.
"Arthur Boone," she spoke, and her voice was so thunderous that the man was forced to cover his ears with his hands just to avoid going deaf from the sheer volume. "You would have gladly consumed all of existence in your quest for immortality. Now, you shall be the one consumed!"
She wouldn't! He thought frantically. She wouldn't!
The Spectre's jaw came unhinged as she opened her mouth obscenely wide.
"She would!" Boone shrieked, frantically pulling at the controls.
He was still at it when his plane vanished down the dark maw of the Spectre's gullet, screaming in terror all the way down.
The enormous woman smiled savagely as she closed her mouth. Now only one member of SEELE remained, and so Ikari's death drew near. She considered stopping her pursuit of SEELE for the day, considered making Ikari wait just a little bit longer, but ultimately she rejected the idea.
She was growing impatient as time passed.
Her last stop before returning to Japan was Berlin. It was in this city that the only living man whose evil could be said to truly rival that of Gendo Ikari resided. Keel Lorenz had attempted to flee like the others, but when he'd heard of how his fellow members of SEELE were dying left and right, he'd realized how futile that was and had returned to his home.
The wizened old cyborg showed no outward response as she appeared before him in his study, finding him sipping at a large glass of brandy.
"I had wondered when you would arrive," he commented in a low grumble. "I didn't expect that you'd play hell with my visor like this, though." He added, gesturing to the mechanical implant that substituted for his eyes.
"You do not fear my vengeance?" she asked. "You, who have had so many crude devices fused to your flesh in order to evade death for just a little longer?"
"Oh, don't mistake me, I'm terrified of you," Keel spoke, though he didn't sound it. "However, I know screaming won't help, so instead, I offer you a deal."
"A deal?" the Spectre scoffed.
"Don't be so hasty to refuse," Keel said, taking another sip of his brandy. "I've always been a very powerful man, and the recent, untimely deaths of my colleagues have made me more powerful still. There is virtually nothing I cannot give you. Name what you desire, and in exchange for my life, it shall be yours."
"I am the spirit of vengeance," the Spectre spat. "There is only one thing I desire."
The leader of SEELE inhaled sharply.
"Chairman Keel," the Spectre spoke, "for years, you have striven for immortality, ruining lives without number as you pursued your ambitions. Now I shall grant you your wish!"
Keel felt his body beginning to go numb. The loss of sensation started at his toes and then began to work its way up. Looking down at himself, he felt horror grip his shriveled old heart.
He was turning to stone.
"No!" the ancient man screamed, losing all trace of composure as the promise of death was finally about to be delivered. "No!"
In his panic, he tried to jump up and attack the Spectre, but he grew increasingly clumsy as more and more of him became rock, and she easily avoided his grabbing hands. Soon, he couldn't move from his current spot at all.
"Please, don't do this," he begged as the stone began to creep up his torso and toward his neck. "I'll do anything. Anything."
"It is far too late for you, Keel," the Spectre whispered. "But do not fret. As I said, you shall have your wish for immortality. You shall exist as long as the rock of the mountain."
Keel's transformation completed, and all life departed from his form, leaving only a statue of him, its face twisted in an expression of horror and desperation.
The Spectre smiled. "Only one left before I can get to Ikari," she said to the empty room, then she vanished.
When the Spectre reappeared, she was once again in Tokyo-3, but she was nowhere near the NERV base. Instead, she found herself in a very dingy little room. She wouldn't have kept a pet in such a place, but Ikari had clearly seen fit to keep his pet in it.
The third Rei Ayanami sat on the bed, holding a pair of cracked eyeglasses in her pale hands. The girl's crimson gaze was pointed right at the Spectre, but she did not see the vengeful entity before her. The Spectre had deliberately made herself invisible to any eyes besides her own.
As the years after her suicide attempt had passed, Naoko's hatred of Rei had only grown. First the little freak had had the unmitigated gall to return from the dead; Naoko never would have killed herself if she'd known that Rei's death could be so easily swept under the rug. Then she had continued to be the apple of Ikari's eye, reminding him what he was executing his terrible scenario for and driving him onward. Driving him to hurt Ritsuko.
So far as she was concerned, Rei was more responsible for all the ills she wanted to address than everyone but Gendo himself.
I'm going to enjoy this, she decided as she looked down at the unsuspecting girl.
She would remain invisible as she did it, and there would be no more flashy displays of her power. Instead, she would reach out and strangle the girl again. The little bitch would claw frantically at her throat, trying to pull the phantom hands away, but she would be unable to touch her killer. And even though Rei wouldn't be able to see her, she would know, in her last moment of consciousness, who was killing her.
She would know Naoko Akagi had reached up from the grave to make Gendo's doll as dead the scientist herself was.
Then the Spectre would head down to Terminal Dogma and destroy the clones that Gendo would need to bring her back a third time, and Rei Ayanami would at last be truly dead.
Goodbye, Rei, she thought as she reached out for the pilot's slender neck.
Her fingers went right through Rei without touching her. The EVA pilot didn't even flinch at the contact. She clearly hadn't felt a thing.
"What?!" the Spectre breathed. Rei didn't hear her. "Nothing happened! Why didn't anything happen?!"
Then, the Spectre felt as though someone had given an invisible cord tied to her a hard, unceremonious yank. The world blurred around her as she was pulled upwards at fantastic speeds.
She came to an abrupt stop inside a crackling thunderhead just like the one where she had first received the powers of the Spectre, and she suddenly realized that she had become Naoko again somewhere along the journey.
"You have erred, Naoko Akagi," the familiar voice boomed from above her. "The vast powers conferred upon you were not meant to be used for your personal vendettas!"
"Are you kidding me?" she shouted back. "Pursuing my personal vendettas is practically all I've been doing, and you haven't objected until now!"
"In the matters of SEELE and Gendo Ikari, your desire for vengeance and Heaven's own coincided and was thus allowed," the voice answered back. "Not so with Rei Ayanami."
"The little bitch is a willing part of Ikari's schemes!" Naoko snapped. "She's helping him try to destroy the world! She deserves to be punished!"
"If punishment she deserves, then punishment she shall receive. But it will not be by your hand, for it is not your place to judge her," the voice responded. "You are a vessel of heavenly vengeance—not your own. You forget at your peril. Remember this."
Naoko blinked, and when she opened her eyes again, she was the Spectre once more, and she was back in Ayanami's apartment. The blue haired girl had not moved an inch.
The Spectre scowled down at Rei. "It seems that you are spared," she whispered, though Rei did not hear her. "Your master, on the other hand…" she trailed off, then disappeared from the apartment.
Despite all his efforts, despite all his years of self discipline, Gendo Ikari felt his face go pale as the Spectre materialized within his bedroom.
"Hello, Ikari," she said. "SEELE is gone; I ended Boone and Keel not long ago. You know what that means."
"I know what you intend to do," Gendo said, reaching into his pocket and removing a small remote control of some kind, "but you won't. You never should have given me a warning for the sake of being dramatic."
"And what is that supposed to be, Ikari?" the Spectre asked.
"This is a detonation trigger," Gendo said, holding the remote up. "If I press this button, the bomb hidden in your daughter's home will explode, and she will die."
The Spectre's eyes narrowed, and the faintest trace of a smile appeared on Gendo's bearded face.
Then the trigger came apart in Gendo's grip, the components falling to the wood floor with a clatter.
"You will pay dearly for that, Ikari," the Spectre hissed.
"I'm not out of tricks yet, Naoko," Gendo said as he reached into his other pocket. "It cost me a very great deal to obtain this, but I think it will give even you pause."
He withdrew a small gemstone that was as black as obsidian.
The Spectre's eyes widened at the sight. "Ikari, you don't understand what you're playing with!" she exclaimed, a trace of fear appearing in her voice for the first time.
"Perhaps not, but I have worked too long and sacrificed too much to let you tear my scenario apart now, old hag," Gendo said, wrapping his fist around the black diamond.
Pale blue light streamed out through his fingers at first, then it abruptly flared around his form, and the Spectre had to raise her hand to shield her eyes.
Seconds later, the light winked out. The Spectre lowered her arms to see that where Gendo Ikari had been only a moment ago now stood a goblin-like creature clad in black and violet. A white circle covered the right side of the creature's face. An image of the sun being partially covered by the moon was emblazoned upon its chest
"Hello, Spectre," the thing drawled. "My, my, my. A female host this time. I never thought you would opt for the feminine touch."
"Eclipso," the Spectre hissed.
"So, the mighty spirit of divine vengeance remembers the old spirit of divine wrath!" Eclipso said. "And here I'd thought you'd forgotten about me after you imprisoned me within the Heart of Darkness all those eons ago!"
"Vacate the body of that man," the Spectre commanded, unimpressed by her predecessor's shouting. "I have vengeance to extract."
"Do not order me!" Eclipso snarled. "I am your elder!"
"You are disgraced!" Spectre snapped. "Before, I stripped you of your power and imprisoned you! This time, I may be forced to destroy you!"
Eclipso threw his head back and laughed manically. "You would destroy me?! You know there are rules against that! Are you really willing to pay that price?"
"To destroy your host and keep this abused world from suffering you again? Yes!" Spectre roared.
With that she threw a punch, her fist connecting solidly with one of Eclipso's pointed ears. The spirit of wrath went flying and then crashed through Gendo Ikari's bedroom window. The Spectre flew after him, murder in her intense eyes.
"It's been eons since I felt that punch!" Eclipso laughed wildly as he tumbled through the air. "And you hit even more like a girl than you did back then!"
"Be silent, abomination!" the Spectre roared as she punched Eclipso again, this time sending him careening into the street so hard that he cracked the pavement upon impact.
"I will do as I please, Spectre!" Eclipso shouted, holding the black diamond before his left eye.
A shaft of light shot forth from the spirit of wrath's eyes, streaked into the diamond, and then came out amplified a thousand fold. The burst of white radiance slammed directly into the Spectre's chest, sending her reeling with a scream.
"That toy of yours will not help you defeat me!" the spirit of vengeance shouted as she regained her composure.
The asphalt of the street began to shift and bulge upwards in several places. In mere moments, the bulges had taken on roughly human shapes and had extracted themselves from the rest of the street. The stone giants began to advance toward Eclipso.
The spirit of wrath blasted them to all to rubble with a few shots of energy from the black diamond he held in his fist. "You'd play these games with me, Spectre?" he asked. "I think you've been beating up puny humans too long. You've forgotten how to fight another being like yourself!"
"I have not," the Spectre replied.
"Really?" Eclipso hissed. "Prove it."
"Very well," the Spectre said in a soft, dangerous voice.
The body of the spirit of vengeance rapidly began to expand before she had even finished accepting her predecessor's challenge, growing outwards in all directions. In the blink of an eye, she had gone from human-sized, to Evangelion-sized, and then beyond even that, until the top of her hood brushed the clouds above. Next to her, Eclipso had grown to equally massive proportions.
And none of the people in the city ever saw them.
The two lunged at one another, becoming locked in a fierce grapple. And then they vanished.
When they reappeared, they were both ankle deep in salt water. The reflection of the moon on the water was broken as their arrival sent huge waves fanning out in all direction.
"Ugh, where are we?" Eclipso demanded as he pushed the Spectre hard, trying to topple her.
"The Sea of Japan," the Spectre replied with a grunt as she stood firm.
Eclipso laughed harshly. "Taking the fight away from the civilians? You always were a softie at heart, Spectre!"
"Unlike wrath, vengeance is selective," the Spectre retorted. "And I have selected you."
"But can you pass judgment? Can you execute your sentence, girl?" Eclipso mocked.
"We shall see, won't we?" the Spectre replied, and redoubled her fighting efforts.
For an indeterminate period of time, the two nearly god-like being fought, trading blows, neither bothering with any flashy tricks any longer. At one point, the Spectre knocked Eclipso into the ocean, the resulting splash becoming a tsunami that would later wipe away several of the small towns along Nippon's west coast.
However, these were only the parts of the battle that a mortal mind could comprehend. The Spectre and Eclipso clashed on all levels of magic, fighting through time and space itself, each unleashing forces that could have destroyed all of creation with each feint or counterfeit. Halfway across the universe, Eclipso attempted to hurl the Spectre into a super dense black hole. At the beginning of time, the Spectre tried to make Eclipso suffer the brunt of the Big Bang.
But for all the giants' terrifying power, the side effects of their combat were nearly as frightening to the people on the pale blue dot in the cosmos that served as their main battleground. The sky above them grew black as a terrific storm began, pouring rain down upon the sea and illuminating the area with incredible displays of lighting, and the great mass of destructive clouds only grew as the two continued to fight. The firmament likewise reacted to their combat; the ground beneath them began to convulse in a series of quakes, each larger than the last. And from the Philippines all the way up to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, volcanoes started to erupt, spewing molten rock across the land.
Seventeen countries would declare a national state of emergency thanks to the two entities' brawl, and countless people believed in their heart of hearts that the end of the world had come at last.
And still the two beings continued to fight tirelessly for hour after hour.
"You used to be much stronger than me, Spectre," Eclipso taunted. "Is your new host this inept, or has the passage of so many centuries really weakened you that much?"
"Neither," the Spectre replied, "I was just stalling for time."
And the two of them vanished again.
In less than a heartbeat, they had reappeared back at where they had begun, namely on the street outside of Gendo Ikari's home. Eclipso's face twisted into an expression of confusion.
"Back here? Why would you bring us back here?" the spirit of wrath demanded.
"Have you forgotten your old weakness, or has your host forgotten what Japan is, Eclipso?" the Spectre asked.
Eclipso merely gave her a blank look, clearly not understanding what she was getting at quite yet.
"Eclipso, this is the Land of the Rising Sun," the Spectre said softly, just as the morning sun crested the horizon.
The spirit of wrath's eyes widened, and he turned his head just in time to catch a glimpse of the golden orb as its rays of light shone down upon him, robbing him of his power as it always did.
"Noooo!" Eclipso screamed, but it was already too late for him to escape.
The spirit of wrath was forced back into his diamond, leaving only the form of Gendo Ikari in his place. The Commander of NERV suddenly found himself hanging in thin air several dozen stories above the ground.
Then he began to fall. Gendo released a scream as he began to plummet toward the earth.
But he was not destined to die so quickly. The Spectre reached her hands out and easily caught him. The fully grown man easily fit within the palm of one of her gloved hands.
"You caught me by surprise with that black diamond, Ikari," the Spectre conceded, "but your resistance was ultimately futile. You cannot escape my vengeance."
They vanished and then reappeared, but this time they didn't go far, just back to his bedroom. When the Spectre rematerialized, she was again human sized. Gendo appeared a few feet above the floor and immediately went falling down to it, landing painfully.
Before he could even think about getting to his feet, flames suddenly leapt up all over the room. This time, Gendo knew, they wouldn't be vanishing as though they had never existed.
"I would have left you to be consumed by this taste of what's to come for you, Ikari," the Spectre said. "But you threatened my Ritsuko. Your punishment must be especially severe."
Gendo screamed. He would scream again many, many times in the coming hours.
Kozo Fuyutski sighed as he opened a bottle of very old wine that he'd been saving for a special occasion. The deaths of SEELE and his former student were not what he'd had in mind, but he supposed he might as well drink it anyway. He wasn't getting any younger, after all.
Besides, it seemed very possible that the assassin who had slain them all would come for him as well. Goodness knew he'd deserve it, but he wouldn't want to die with his good wine still unconsumed. He removed the cork from the bottle, poured himself a glass, and then sat down in an overstuffed easy chair of his.
"Should probably be in NERV," he mused as he looked about his dim apartment, telling himself that he wasn't searching for the assassin's shadow.
The news that Ikari had died, ostensibly consumed by an accidental fire in his home, hadn't officially reached him until that evening. He'd known something was wrong when the man hadn't showed up for work, of course, but nevertheless, Fuyutski had been able to keep the news quiet so far. But when morning came, it would inevitably get out, and all kinds of chaos would erupt for sure. With the Committee gone as well, Fuyutski's job would become a lot more difficult. He should probably get a jump on all of it by starting damage control that evening.
He shook his head and sighed again. There would be time for all that madness tomorrow. For now, he would rest while he could.
A knock at his door interrupted his dreary thoughts, and Fuyutski put his wine glass down. "Who could that be?" he wondered aloud.
The assassin, a voice in the back of his mind whispered.
He ignored it. Surely no assassin capable of wiping out SEELE and the Commander of NERV Central would ever stoop to something as pedestrian as knocking on his door. He walked over to it and opened it.
And found himself face to face with the Spectre.
Fuyutski reflexively released a small yelp of fright and jumped back a step. "Have…have you come to kill me?" he asked, swallowing hard.
The Spectre was silent for a long moment. Fuyutski felt sweat running down the back of his neck.
"No," she said at last. "Your greatest sin is cowardice, not murder. You merely watched as atrocities were committed, but you committed none yourself."
Fuyutski's shoulders slumped in relief. He hadn't realized until now how much he'd dreaded the Spectre coming for him, having believed that his old age should have shielded him from the fear of death.
"Then why have you come? Er, if you don't mind my asking," Fuyutski added.
The Spectre's frightening form suddenly shifted into something far more human, and the Vice Commander abruptly found himself facing the former Chairperson of Project-E.
"Naoko!" he gasped.
"Hello, Professor," she greeted him with a dry smile.
"What…? How…?" he stammered.
"That's none of your concern, Kozo," Naoko said. "What is your concern is stepping into the power vacuum I've created by killing Ikari and destroying SEELE."
"Why?" Fuyutski asked.
"There's still one Angel left, isn't there?" Naoko asked. "Then there's the Children. And, of course, my daughter."
"Naoko…" the Vice Commander began, wanting to tell her he was just a dried up old man who couldn't possible seize control of everything and salvage what Gendo and the council had so soundly broken.
"Listen to me, Kozo Fuyutski," Naoko commanded, and suddenly he could see the Spectre in her eyes. "You are going to seize the reins of NERV, and you are going to do your absolute damnedest to end this war with as little additional bloodshed as possible. You are going to try and help those poor children, and you are going to make sure my daughter comes out of this whole ordeal smelling like a rose. You will do all these things, or so help me, I will destroy you, regardless of the consequences to myself."
"I understand, Naoko," Fuyutski said quietly.
"Good," she said. "Now, I should go. I don't think we'll ever see one another again. Unless of course, you give me a reason to seek you out."
Fuyutski nodded. "Are you going to see Ritsuko now?"
"No," Naoko answered. "And you're not going to tell her you saw me."
"She's made her peace with my death, Kozo. If I came back, it would only bring her pain," she said quietly. "Our relationship wasn't exactly stellar while I was a normal woman, anyway. I don't want to hurt her again."
Fuyutski sighed. "She's your daughter."
"Yes," Naoko replied. "She is. Sayonara, Professor."
Despite her words, the next place she went was her daughter's home. The younger Dr. Akagi had already gone to bed and fallen asleep by the time she got there, and Naoko entered the house silently. Once inside, she found her way to her daughter's bedside and stood there for a long time, just looking down at Ritsuko's sleeping form.
She was very proud of her daughter, but Naoko knew she had made far too many mistakes in raising her. In addition to never giving Ritsuko enough of her time, she had failed to teach her about some of the most important things in life, allowing her daughter to bury herself too deeply in test tubes and science books, just like her mother so often had.
If only I had been a better mother, you might not have found Gendo when you went looking for love, Naoko thought, shaking her head. I should have made sure you knew that you deserved better than a man like him.
Well, Gendo was gone now. He would never hurt Ritsuko—or anyone, for that matter—ever again. And Naoko's new job was going undone while she tarried at her daughter's bedside. She could hear the murdered dead calling to her, demanding that the Spectre perform her duties.
"I love you, Ritsuko," Naoko whispered, leaning down to kiss her daughter's cheek.
Ritsuko shivered as the dead woman's cold lips touched her face, causing Naoko to sigh sorrowfully.
"Good bye," Naoko whispered, and then disappeared.
A moment after she had gone, Ritsuko stirred and let out a quiet groan. Eventually she sat up, rubbing at her eyes.
"Wha?" she mumbled, still half asleep. "Mother?"
She looked around, seeing no one else in her room. She shrugged, deciding it must have been a dream, then she lay down again and went right back to sleep.
Author's Notes: And here we have Naoko's entry into the SOE2-verse. This fic was different from my usual writings; it was basically a straight revenge fic (incidentally, if this was a more light hearted story and I was okay with totally ripping off another Eva fic writer, this one would have been titled "Naoko Gets Power and Totally Wales on Everyone"), with what's hopefully a very melancholy conclusion. I also had to deal with the challenge of trying to write a battle between two beings of truly god-like power. I'm not really all that happy with the Spectre versus Eclipso fight, but, eh, it's not like even DC Comics does that great a job of it when these two fight. In Countdown to Mystery, for instance, they had this big battle, and while there was a pretty potentially apocalyptic, clash-of-the-titans sort of atmosphere, they didn't actually do all that much to each other besides standard fisticuffs. The reader was just sort of distracted from this by the (totally ineffective) ghost army Eclipso's ally managed to gather, a lot of threats exchanged, nightmarish visions of potential futures, and flowery narration.
Anyway, enough of my excuses. If I remember right, some of my reviewers asked why I didn't have Yui as the Spectre after I posted "The Hand of Fate." There are two reasons for this. First, Yui technically didn't really die, having been trapped in Unit One the whole series. But if you say Naoko was the soul trapped in Unit Zero, then she did die. Secondly, and more importantly, the Spectre is not a superhero who gets to be happy. The host of the Spectre is dead, a ghost who gets to walk among the living. That person tends to creep people out, and is compelled to go and brutally kill people on a pretty regular basis. Even if they fake being alive (like Jim Corrigan did for a while), they're just not a part of the living world anymore. I didn't want to do that to Yui. But Naoko murdered a child. I'm cool with Naoko not getting to go live happily ever after.
Well, I'd say I've rambled enough. So thanks to all my readers and reviewers, and thanks to my beta reader as well.